It’s not surprising that many of us are having difficulty with sleep at the moment, considering the extra worries we have and the significant change in routine for many. A lack of sleep in young people can lead to issues ranging from problems with growth and the immune system, to mental health and behaviour, to memory and concentration.
The impact of light on sleep seems particularly important in our world today. Light signals to our body that it is time to wake up. Blue light, which is emitted in high doses by screens, is particularly bad for this. A key strategy for sleeping well is taking in more light in the morning and limiting our exposure to light before bed. This advice can also help teenagers, whose body clocks are programmed so they naturally go to sleep later and get up later than adults.
Here are some of the other tips recommended by researchers (you can also download these as a separate resource sheet here):
Children aged three to five years need 11 – 12 hours sleep a night. Those aged six to ten years need 10 – 11 hours sleep a night.
- Have a relaxing bedtime routine that lasts no more than half an hour.
- Turn off screens at least an hour before bedtime and lower the lighting in the house.
- If your child is anxious, read stories about characters who overcome these worries (e.g. about the dark) during the daytime. Talk to them about what they are looking forward to tomorrow. Give them something of yours (e.g. a t-shirt) to have in bed.
- Put relaxing music or an audio book on as they go to sleep.
- If they are having difficulty getting to sleep, or have got into the habit of late bedtimes, start by scheduling bedtime for when they would usually go to sleep and move it back very slowly (e.g. 15mins earlier every few days).
- For children who are reluctant to stay in bed, try sitting with them as they fall asleep and then gradually, over a number of weeks, moving further away each night and eventually out of the room.
For more information this resource, The Goodnight Guide for Children, explains the technicalities for a good night’s sleep in accessible language with great illustrations.
Now could be a good time for us to do our best to prioritise sleep so we set ourselves on the right track to being happy, healthy, and more able to cope with whatever life throws at us! For more information on this topic, we would recommend The Sleep Council’s website https://sleepcouncil.org.uk and, for supporting children and young people, their ‘Goodnight Guide for Children’.
For Teenagers and Adults
School-aged teenagers need 9 – 9 ½ hours sleep a night. 99.9% of adults need 8 hours sleep a night.
- Wake up at the same time every day (or as close to this as possible).
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the late afternoon/ evening, as far as possible. It takes around 8 hours for caffeine to leave your body. Caffeine and alcohol affect the quality of everyone’s sleep, even if you drink them regularly!
- Turn off screens at least an hour before bedtime and lower the lighting in the house (e.g. by using lamps instead of the ceiling light).
- Charge phones in another room or put them on ‘airplane mode’ if this isn’t possible.
- Before bed, make a note of something that has gone well that day. Write down any worries or a ‘To Do’ list.
- Put relaxing music, an audio book, or a guided relaxation recording on whilst going to sleep.
- Don’t lie awake in bed. If you find yourself lying in bed awake for more than 20mins, get up and do a relaxing activity.
For adults who want to know more, members of our team recommend this book by Matthew Walker: Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams .
The Tide app contains several different features to aid sleep, a lot of which can be accessed for free. Users can choose from a selection of relaxing sleep-aid soundscapes such as rain falling, ocean water lapping on the beach and rumbling thunder which can be played indefinitely or for set amounts of time. Guided mindfulness and meditation activities and mini exercises such as body scans and guided breathing are available, as are short articles on topics such as “four ways to have a good sleep”. The app also allows you to track your sleep time and quality, helping you identify whether any changes need to be made to improve your sleep routine and hygiene.